Do you have children with Asperger Syndrome in your classroom and wonder how best to cater to their needs? Do you have friends with Asperger Syndrome, or maybe have it yourself? This week’s guest Kathy Hoopmann has a wealth of suggestions to help you understand, appreciate and enjoy the complex syndrome that is known as ASD.
Combining her knowledge of Asperger Syndrome with her teaching background, Kathy has written over twenty books for children and adults. She is best known for her photo-illustrated books that deal with Asperger Syndrome, ADHD and anxiety. The simplicity, charm and insight of these books has made them must-haves for children and adults around the world.
Kathy has won and been shortlisted for many literary awards including the Children’s Book Council of Australia Award, and she has four times been awarded a silver Nautilus Award (US). Her books have been translated into thirteen languages and sell widely in Australia, the UK, the US and the Middle East.
The books help children and adults with ASD recognise that they are not alone and provide support to carers, teachers and other professionals working with people with ASD. In any home, school or classroom library Kathy’s books would help everyone learn to understand and support each other.
Welcome to readilearn, Kathy. Over to you.
The boy crawled under a table, his cap pulled low. All eyes were on me to watch what I would do. I was the relief teacher, or ‘light relief’ and the class was eager for a good show. But I had been a relief teacher for too long to take the bait. Besides, I recognised the behavior. The boy displayed many characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder and frankly under the table was the very best place he could be, for his sake and mine.
‘Miss?’ a child ventured, ‘Billy’s under the table and he’s wearing a hat indoors.’
‘So he is,’ I agreed, ‘I guess he likes it there and that hat looks pretty comfortable to me.’ I went on with the lesson. Billy came out in his own time and all was well. He still wore the cap.
That was twenty years ago, before I started writing about Asperger Syndrome, (now known as Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD) but it was for situations like this that I began writing my books.
When a child is diagnosed with…, well anything really, most carers are prepared to investigate the issue to great depths. Doctor Google gets a solid working out as they arm themselves with facts and solutions. Often parents-with-an-interest are more learned than their local GPs and could run their own clinics. (In fact, they do; they’re called Support Groups.)
However, Grandma or the old man next door or the overworked teacher is much less inclined to spend every waking moment solving issues that have puzzled specialists for years. I realised that there needed to be some simple literature that demystified Asperger’s so that our society could become aware of the many positives of those on the spectrum, whilst supporting the negatives.
My first venture into ASD writing was The Asperger Adventure series; Blue Bottle Mystery, Of Mice and Aliens and Lisa and the Lacemaker. To the best of my knowledge, these were the first children’s fiction books with the main characters diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, and many a parent and teacher have used these books to help children come to terms with their own diagnosis. Blue Bottle Mystery and Lisa and the Lacemaker have been re-released as graphic novels.
I later ventured into nonfiction with my photo books; All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome, All Dogs Have ADHD and Inside Asperger’s Looking Out. Although marketed for children, I never saw them as a children’s book. Knowing how time-strapped most people are these days, I wanted to write a non-threatening, light-hearted, but enlightening book that adults and children alike could read in minutes yet come away with a much deeper appreciation of the specific issue.
They have been used extensively in classrooms to help other children understand those in their midst. I often get mail from people telling me the impact my books have on their lives. People feel validated as ‘real’ people and know that they are not alone, that others are like them ‘out there’ and that someone finally understands them. Here is an extract from one lady and her powerful reaction to reading All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome…
“I am sixty four years old, fairly sensible and grounded yet I started to sob. With every page I turned and read, I cried harder. All the wasted years and misunderstandings in my life were somewhat being explained. You were relating my whole existence to date, and the tears would not stop… I cried like never before… tears, mainly for my lost and wasted life, were being dragged up from the bottom of my heart and the tears kept coming.”
My heart aches for this lady and it is exactly for people like this that I write.
Since then I have been bombarded with other suggestions for photo books. All Goats have Pica (true- they’ll eat anything), All Lions have Narcissistic Personality Disorder (possibly, but maybe it’s just their right) and All Clams Have Cotard Delusion (I quite like that one).
A clinical psychologist revealed that about 80% of his clients have anxiety in some form or other, and that led me to write All Birds have Anxiety. One mum told me that her young son was riddled with anxiety when he had to present a talk in front of his class. Normally, he would have refused to go to school on presentation day, but instead, he sat quietly, read All Birds Have Anxiety, then got up and dressed for school. The power of positive words can never be underestimated.
One of my favourite books is Elemental Island, co-written with J.S. Kiss. We created a utopia that is entirely populated by people on the spectrum. And then a child with ‘social syndrome’ is born. It explores and celebrates differences in people from an alternative perspective. It’s a very interesting island. Go visit sometime.
Several years ago, I had long swapped my ‘teacher hat’ for’ visiting author hat’. However with my background in teaching, and my knowledge of ASD, I was in the perfect place to write a book to help teachers understand, appreciate and support, and dare I say, enjoy, the children on the spectrum in their care. ‘The Essential Manual for Asperger Syndrome (ASD) in the Classroom’ tells you exactly what you are getting.
I knew from personal experience that after an exhausting day with students, the last thing teachers want to do is research how to help one child in one class with a specific issue. So I did all the research for them.
This manual is easy to navigate, rich with information and is filled with tips that are easily workable in the average classroom. The book is not designed to be read cover to cover, but rather an ‘Issue Sorter’ at the front of the book directs the teacher to the section most likely to be helpful, such as social issues, bullying, field trips, meltdowns, forming friendships, literal thinking and speaking, and the overwhelming influence of sensory sensitivities.
Many of these issues overlap with other diagnoses and can help provide a classroom environment that builds self-esteem, which, let’s face it, is a more powerful solution to good grades than any weekly test.
In each section, I’ve included an insight as to how each issue affects the child from his/her point of view; activities to help explain the child’s behaviour to other students; and a ‘Home Link’ helping parents and teachers to work together. Basically, I wrote a book that I wished I had owned years ago.
And my Autism writing is set to continue with The Secret Science Society where a group of quirky rascals, with a bunch of diagnoses that have lots of letters (ASD, OCD, ODD, ADHD, etc,) get up to all sorts of mischief, whether they mean to or not. I am co-writing this with Josie Santomauro, a fellow ASD author, and it is due out late 2018.
Writing has been my life for almost twenty years and if even one misunderstood and rejected person feels validated and worthy after reading my books, then it has all been worthwhile.
Thank you, Kathy Hoopmann, for sharing these insights into Asperger Syndrome and how your books can help us understand, accept and appreciate each other.
Thank you for having me.
To find out more about Kathy Hoopmann and her books, visit her website
or connect with her on social media
Facebook: Kathy Hoopmann Author
Linkedin: Kathy Hoopmann
Kathy is also available for school visits. She can talk to students as a visiting author or offer workshops for teachers on ASD in the classroom.
To arrange a session with Kathy, contact her via Speakers Ink.
You can purchase Kathy’s books through Footprint Books and most online stores.
Footprint Books have generously offered a 15% discount off any of Kathy Hoopmann’s books for the month of July.
To purchase Kathy’s books using this special discount, please click the Footprint Books logo and insert the discount code KATHY15 at the checkout.*
* Standard delivery fee is $5.50 per order. Not to be used in conjunction with any other offer/discount. Prices are subject to change without notice. Discount does not apply to eBooks. Postage covers Australia and New Zealand orders only.
Kathy is also excited to announce that All Birds Have Anxiety has been shortlisted for the People’s Book Prize in the UK. Can you help Kathy by voting for her book?
To vote, follow this link and scroll to the bottom of the page. No need to sign in to the site, but write in your name and email address then press Submit. If you want you can also leave a comment about the book.
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